Leaders-in-training volunteer at Ronald McDonald House
With winter break on the horizon, Liberty Elementary spread a little seasonal joy at the Ronald McDonald House Charities, where the Student Leadership Team baked and bagged 10 dozen cookies for families whose children are patients in local hospitals. “It helps instill that they need to give back to the community and not just focus on themselves,” said Cydney Jackson, a district mental health specialist based at Liberty, who accompanied the dozen fifth graders on the field trip. At this age, “there’s such a focus on things that don’t matter, like Instagram and who has their hair in a scrunchie. … (But) the world is beyond what you see on your doorstep.”
After a quick tour of the facility next door to UK’s Kroger Field, the youngsters fanned out in the huge kitchen area to plop dough onto baking sheets, monitor the ovens, count and stack the warm goodies, and fill plastic baggies labeled for peanut butter, sugar with M&Ms, sugar with sprinkles, or white macadamia nut cookies. As they worked, the students expressed concern for the out-of-town families staying in the guesthouse.
“They spend time all day (at the hospital) and come back exhausted, so this will make them feel good. Everybody is happy to be here and help out,” said 10-year-old Ali Fisher. Classmate Terrell Banks, who kept a steady pace from task to task, agreed. “Us being here (baking fresh cookies) will make the families feel welcome and give them a little bit of hope,” he said.
The Ronald McDonald House, which has 21 guest rooms, does try to maintain a comfortable respite. “When families come by, they can pick up snacks and go right back to the hospital,” said Reuben Watson, the volunteer and guest services manager. “It’s hard to put into words the impact it has on our families that people want to come and serve,” he added, thanking the Liberty group.
Assisting Jackson were gifted-and-talented teacher Megan Hendricks and Family Resource Center coordinator Alaina Bailey. All three staffers work closely with the Student Leadership Team, a diverse group of 14 handpicked youngsters. Jackson selected a few who need to polish their social skills. The rest are borderline for the leadership G/T track, so this outing offered a chance to add a community service component. “They’re building a portfolio of experiences in the classroom, the school, and the community,” Hendricks explained.
“We are supporting these students’ desire to give back, show support, and foster leadership ideas. This is one of several projects that our students will be completing this year,” said Jackson, who next plans to pair team members with kindergarteners for mentoring. “There’s a lot of good in the world, and people will always help if you give them an opportunity,” she said. “It’s something simple that makes people feel good, and they need that.”